Growing up, I was very picky about what people called me. I never like to be called Dany, because to me that was a boy’s name. I remember very clearly telling my Grandma she was never allowed to call me that. Over the years my family and friends have come up with nicknames, only a couple have been used consistently.
In Bolivia, or really all of Latin America, Danyelle is pronounced Daniel, and is a boys name. I learned quickly that if I wanted anyone to understand my name, I would need to change it. Normally I go by Daniela, but this year it seems like I answer to just about anything. ;) Here are a few of the most common name I have here:
Danyelle: obviously this one speaks for itself. Only other missionaries call me this though.
Dan-yell-e: Mostly government officials trying to pronounce my name on paperwork
Daniela: The vast majority of people
Dani: I’ve finally caved and am allowing this nickname. But to be fair to all who tried before, it sounds better in Spanish.
Tia Daniela: Tia means Aunt in Spanish, and the kids at Casa de Amor call all adults “aunt or uncle”
Tia Danielita: The kids and women at the orphanage when they need a favor. Adding “ita” to the end of a word is like a term of endearment.
Tia Nani: The kids who have a hard time saying Daniela.
Tia Daniela Guapa: Occasionally some of the younger girls like to add “guapa” or “good looking” to the end of my name. Of course I don’t mind, but it should probably be noted that it is usually little Jhosi who is blind that calls me that. ;)
Tia Hiney: This one is my fault, but I haven’t gotten rid of it yet. I wasn’t sure what the appropriate form of bottom was in Spanish, so I started saying it in English instead. Now the girls at the orphanage love to call me Aunt Hiney whenever possible. Thankfully, no one else knows what it means, but regardless…
Miss. Graves: I am still getting used to going by my last name at school, but this is what they are supposed to call me.
Miiisss: This is what they actually call me most of the time. We’re working on it.
Miss Grapes: Most of the kids have a hard time saying Graves, so it usually sounds more like Grapes.
Profe: This is short for “profesora” or teacher in Spanish.
Chocita, Preciosa, Amor: “Blondie, Precious, Love” No one I actually know calls me these things. (Don't get too excited...no boyfriends.) Nor do I actually answer to them – but guys on the street seem to think these are my names.
Mamita: All older Bolivian women call me this. There isn’t a great translation in English, but it’s also a term of endearment.
Hermana: At church, people are often called hermano or hermana (brother or sister).
It has been so interesting to adjust not just to these new names, but to the new roles and identities that come along with them. I am reminded of the verse in 1 Corinthians 9 where Paul says He has become all things to all people, so that they might be saved. I have certainly not become all things to all people, but my prayer is that by whatever name I am known, that Christ may be known instead. Please pray for wisdom in all of these roles, that God would be working through and despite me!